Six Inventions after J.S. Bach

Re-Size Text: A A A A Comment

RSS blog print

Jean L. Kreiling

Six Inventions after J.S. Bach


      Contrapuntal Bliss
        Two-Part Invention No. 1, BWV 772

      One starts, the other follows, they are never
      apart for long, and nobody can sever
      the tangled paths on which they romp and run;
      their contrapuntal bond can’t be undone.
      Although the solemn vows were never said,
      what Bach has joined together will stay wed.

      Pitched Battle
        Two-Part Invention No. 6, BWV 777

      The conflict cannot be resolved: each rise
      is countered by descent. Though each line tries
      to see the other’s point—they switch positions—
      the argument persists, and repetitions
      make clear that no one wins, no one submits,
      and no one minds this clash of opposites.

        Two-Part Invention No. 12, BWV 783

      Stay where you are—trill prettily, but stay—
      or wander wantonly, carouse and play.
      Or can you be both resolute and brisk,
      be faithful as you dare to take a risk?
      Why not? Learn how to sprint, how to be still,
      how much might tremble in a pretty trill.

        Three-Part Invention No. 4, BWV 790

      “Here’s how it’s done: dip down, leap up, repeat.”
      “Oh, I can beat that, and not miss a beat.”
      “No, listen, friends, here’s how it ought to go;
      I make it more seductive—lush and low.”
      Three voices vie, each phrase gently debated,
      the whole impeccably coordinated.

      Late Autumn
        Three-Part Invention No. 7, BWV 793

      Late autumn weeps—its rhythms nearly spent,
      its pitches tracing arcs of discontent,
      its woven colors muted but united
      in intricate devotions unrequited.
      Life, death, and splendor sigh in synchrony:
      the season’s bittersweet polyphony.

      Love Triangle
        Three-Part Invention No. 15, BWV 801

      Perhaps three parts are really one too many:
      of all these close-knit measures, hardly any
      allow the voices to sing equally—
      there’s always one who waits his turn to be
      a part of this romance. While two hearts race,
      a third marks time, left out of the embrace.